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Integrity: an answer to corruption

How young leaders can address Vietnam’s integrity paradox

Vietnam Integrity School team work (Image: Towards Transparency)

Quynh Tong

Youth Integrity Officer, Towards Transparency

Recently, I received a long and emotional email from Trang Dinh, an alum from the Vietnam Integrity School, which our chapter, Towards Transparency hosts each summer since 2017. She had just given her first lecture on integrity in a secondary school.

Vietnam Integrity School 2019 participants (Image: Towards Transparency)

The Vietnam Integrity School brings young people together across Vietnam to learn about anti-corruption, exchange ideas and discuss what integrity means in their daily lives, including family, school, and work, as well as at the national level.

Together, we can make changes

After attending the Vietnam Integrity School, Trang successfully applied for a seed grant to implement a project in her small village to promote integrity among secondary school students.

In her email, Trang told me she just finished her first presentation to students about integrity. Trang had been extremely worried that she would not be able to stand up in front of such a large group of students and deliver her lecture. But her passion and perseverance helped her combat her fear of public speaking, and ultimately, she felt truly inspired and empowered after engaging with the students.

At the end of the email, Trang wrote: “I just want to tell you that I did it. I believe that together we can make changes.”

Trang Dinh and guest speaker from an event from her integrity project. (Image: Thu vien Duong Lieu)

Promoting integrity as an answer to corruption

Corruption remains a serious problem in Vietnam, rising to fourth place as the most concerning issue for Vietnamese citizens in 2019, according to our Vietnam Corruption Barometer 2019, which surveyed more than 1,000 citizens in 19 provinces and cities across Vietnam about their views and experiences of corruption.

In addition, according to our Youth Integrity Survey 2019, Vietnamese young people face an integrity paradox. While most young people surveyed seem to understand the concept of integrity, a majority appear willing to compromise that integrity to gain benefits for themselves and their family.

Khoa Duong, a Vietnam Integrity School alum, shares the excitement he felt in competing in his first national scholastic competition, only to find out that bribing the professors was the only way to win.

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Despite an existing integrity education program led by the government, 81 per cent of young people said they have no or very little information on integrity and anti-corruption rules and regulations.

The Vietnam Integrity School helps fill these gaps in knowledge and serves as an incubator for young Vietnamese leaders, who will become promising game changers in the fight against corruption in Vietnam. We believe graduates like Trang are the silver lining that Vietnamese people need.

2019 participants grow seeds of integrity. (Image: Towards Transparency)

Initiatives run by youth, for youth

Trang is one of the seven alumni that received seed grants in 2019 to implement their own initiatives to promote integrity in their school, community or workplace.

Each alum and their team of young people own the whole process from designing to implementing activities, with Towards Transparency acting as an adviser.

With a strong belief in youth’s capacity, we choose a systemic approach to inspire and support youth to develop autonomy, self-determination and act on their own authority.

Alumni have also started organizing the Vietnam Integrity School by themselves since 2019, with capacity building and support from Towards Transparency.

Having a strong love for the school and commitment to integrity, alumni are the ideal organizers to create the most beneficial and suitable Vietnam Integrity School for young people. The 2019 school, organized by 8 alumni, was considered the most successful school ever, according to an evaluation of lecturers and participants.

School participants organise their own group activities in the classroom. (Image: Towards Transparency)

Hong Nguyen, Vietnam Integrity School alum, describes her decision to act with integrity during her job search.

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Building a culture of integrity

At Towards Transparency, we believe that building a culture of integrity in Vietnam rests with young people. Therefore, we choose to be their faithful and dedicated companions and will stay by their side, support them, and believe in them.

With an empowerment approach, we believe we can pass the torch to our young leaders to uphold integrity and keep the momentum going.

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